Top pick from my recent visit to Wigtown Book Festival were former First Ministers Henry Mcleish and Nicola Sturgeon alongside Tory stalwart Liz Smith and that doyen of political commentators, Brian Taylor, reflecting on their many years spent in the Scottish Parliament. Setting aside obvious political differences, what came through most tellingly was that each spoke from a place of long experience and for that reason alone, what they all had to say seemed to carry extra heft. Except, of course, in our culture it doesn’t quite work like that. Unlike many other societies where the wisdom of elders is positively revered, we seem to abhor all aspects – good and bad – of the ageing process. Conscious that this comment is prompted in part by my own age and stage, but it never fails to surprise me how reluctant we are, both as a sector and a country, to learn from past experience when planning for the future. Obsessed with innovation and a perennial requirement ‘to do things differently,’ we blithely disregard our past failures and successes, confronting each challenge anew. Youth may be wasted on the young but to paraphrase Ted Lasso, the wisdom of age should not be wasted either.
In the most recent briefing…
Twenty years ago the pioneering Unst Partnership, Scotland’s most northerly development trust, designed and built the UK’s first ever road taxed hydrogen-powered car. This remarkable achievement was feted by politicians on all sides, and it was reasonable to assume that this was merely a portent of things to come – a future in which communities would be at the forefront of the emerging renewable energy market. To date, the community share of that energy market has fallen far short of expectation and with the anticipated scale of expansion in the country’s capacity to generate renewable energy, that needs to change.
Dave Fishwick is the self made millionaire from Burnley behind the Netflix film, Bank of Dave (aka Burnley Savings and Loans), a not for profit lending company that has lent over £30m into his community and puts all profits into local causes. His motivation was the 2008 financial crash and while his venture still operates to this day, his plans to become a registered UK bank have been thwarted. A local bank that actually serves a community seems to be an alien concept for the regulators but Dave is not alone in his ambition. Interesting moves afoot in Northern Ireland.
Slowly but surely,and largely under the radar, a quiet revolution is underway. Across the country, in cities, towns and villages, local people are transforming small parcels of land into growing spaces. While new allotment sites are being created at a glacial speed, it is in community run growing spaces that the revolution is really happening. Supported by national network GetGrowing Scotland, hundreds of community groups are finding small plots of land to grow their own fruit and veg. Building on this growing passion for fresh vegetables, Nourish Scotland invites you to their National Veg Summit later this month.
To see someone sleeping in a doorway or under a bush in a park has become increasingly normalised, particularly in our cities. Despite an endless stream of policy initiatives to end homelessness, more people than ever are having to endure the privations of life without a roof over their head. And the longer they are in that position, the more likely they are to experience trauma, problematic substance abuse and mental health issues with, inevitably, worse health outcomes in the long term. Which is why an initiative trialled in Vancouver – not unlike the Universal Basic Income – is attracting widespread attention.
The climate crisis has been caused by the convergence of so many factors that are so complex it can seem completely overwhelming and make any single climate action appear futile. Which, of course, is one of the best reasons to join with others in order to amplify the impact of any actions we might take. Stop Climate Chaos Scotland is the broadest civil society coalition ever assembled in Scotland. Its recently published Climate Manifesto proposes a vast range of actions that the Scottish Government and local authorities could take to address this crisis in all its complexity. Check it out.
North Lanarkshire Council’s threat to close 39 leisure centres and libraries to plug a budget shortfall has been (temporarily?) lifted. But these are always the low hanging fruit for the bean counters when the books aren’t adding up. The same applies to the Scottish Government’s decision to reimpose a cut of £6.5 million to the culture budget. Despite the hand wringing, these decisions simply reflect the political priorities of the moment. By contrast, other places seem to consider investment in the arts and heritage as a non-negotiable prerequisite of government. Places like Barcelona where culture really seems to count.
A forward-thinking community development trust, registered charity and SQA-approved organisation that took a dilapidated building within the community and redeveloped it into a dynamic creative media centre. SWAMP uses accredited training, outreach, film, music, digital technologies, gardening and other creative arts to support local residents – especially young people – to enable social change. The trust is proving that the arts, community involvement and provision of accredited training can be positive tools for change. SWAMP was one of the first organisations in Glasgow to use creative media, digital arts and new technologies as tools for community engagement, combining them with…Find out more